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I grew up watching westerns, and Butch and Sundance must be up there
with my favorite bank robbers. I still love a good western but
Hollywood seems to be to busy with re-makes of all kinds, vampires that
live in sun light type films, over done special effects galore films,
and cheap ass horror film after cheap ass horror film. So I was happy
to see this film coming out, good cast, great story, and fantastic
scenery to boot! I am not to sure about the stories take on Butch, but
besides that I really enjoyed it, the scenery was fantastically caught
on film, the story moves at a nice pace, and at times really hit a
nerve with me about life, friends that have come and gone, and growing
old, and looking back at what we might have done different.
Anyway I enjoyed this film, not a Oscar winner, but well worth it, solid acting by all actors, I gave it a 7.5 out of 10
Westerns are all about cinematography, and Blackthorn is no exception.
Wide, sweeping vistas are the order of the day -- but this time, they're something new: South America, and in particular, Bolivia. This tale of an aging-exiled American outlaw and his attempts to return home may seem a bit straightforward and tame, but in the end it's not and you'll be glad to have spend the hour and forty-five minutes partaking in this latest great example of the genre.
The directing isn't too bad either and the actors generally deliver their lines well, although a few are a bit over-read.
For a modern western that's not an adolescent fantasy and has a great deal of heart, it gets 9/10.
If you're a guy and you haven't at some point had the dream of becoming
an outlaw who takes down government banks and rolls with either a
wicked car or a massive horse then...well...you're weird. Let's just be
honest: being an outlaw is just super cool. Robbing from the rich and
corrupt, taking out bad guys (even though you're kind of a bad guy
yourself), and living outside of the law are all exciting ideas and
make for even more exciting men (and women). We gravitate toward those
characters in movies because they are always charismatic, fun, and give
off an air of freedom despite (and perhaps because of) always being
just one step ahead of certain death at the hands of stodgy law makers
and guys who don't have the stones to be outlaws themselves (I'm
talking to you, Pinkertons!). Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one
of my very favorite films, the rare "classic" that plays just as well
today as I imagine it did when it opened in 1969. The idea, then, of an
alternative history in which Butch and Sundance escape the doom that
awaited them at the end of that film (and in real life, I guess) is
beyond interesting to me. I saw a blurb about Blackthorn a couple of
months ago and immediately knew I would seek it out. I'm awfully glad I
20 years after the standoff in which he and the Sundance Kid supposedly died, an aging Butch Cassidy (Sam Shepard) still lives in Bolivia, laying low and breaking wild horses for wealthy riders. He has a good life but one that is a good deal quieter than he experienced in his outlaw days and that lack of action wears on him. So when he comes in contact with Eduardo Apodaca (Eduardo Noriega), a Spanish engineer with a plan to steal thousands from a mining company, he senses an opportunity not only to relive the glory days but to buy his way back home. The heist turns south, however, when it becomes clear that Noriega isn't who he says he is, forcing Cassidy into circumstances he may not be able to overcome.
Blackthorn (which is the name Cassidy goes by) is a slowburn that moves methodically through both the narrative and the Bolivian landscape, providing action in short, contained bursts rather than excessively throughout the run time. Part of the story is told in the form of flashbacks that fill in the blanks between BCSK and while these aren't the best parts of the film, they re-engage the audience with the Cassidy storyline and essentially create an immediate rooting interest in the character. This is a big part of what makes the film work. It progresses exactly the way a Western should when it concerns itself with an aging protagonist and that makes for a rich and intriguing narrative. (And by the way, can we please have more Westerns, Hollywood? They don't have to be big budget entries like Cowboys and Aliens, just simple little films like this and Meek's Cutoff. More of that please.) In addition, the behind-the-camera work on Blackthorn is excellent. The shot selection is simple yet purposeful and the settings are well-chosen. The cinematography is outstanding, highlighting the tremendous and beautiful geographical diversity of South America. The landscape is in many ways the premier supporting character.
But as you might expect, Blackthorn depends almost entirely on the performance of Shepard and the man delivers magnificently. Shepard is one of the greatest actors of his generation and yet he is often overlooked when that conversation comes up and I am one of the guilty who has too often neglected to mention his name. I can't think of a single actor who I would prefer to play the aging Cassidy and he completely lives up to that statement. I think it would have been very easy to play Cassidy as some sort of knock-off of Paul Newman's interpretation of the character. Instead, Shepard makes him wholly his own with just a hint of reminiscence for the iconic original. The years have taken their toll on Cassidy but Shepard never makes him come off as bitter or even overly tired so much as hardened and slightly more crotchety. Cassidy shows the physical rust that would accumulate during a 20 year hibernation but he displays the wits and reflexes that make men like himself so exciting. There are a few moments in which I found myself thinking, "The guy still has it!" the same way I would if I was watching an aging slugger take one monster swing that sends a ball 450 feet up into the stands. It's a powerful yet understated performance that has reminded me of Shepard's true greatness. I won't be forgetting his value again anytime soon and the same should be said for Blackthorn as a whole.
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Blackthorn is an estimable contribution to Western movies. Contrary to the American style, here the epic it's illustrated in a less gimmicky way. There's not apotheosis at the endings of the sequences with a high emotional music theme. Poetry it's in the words, the silences, the landscapes and the development of the characters. Apparently it's a traditional story about compensation with the past, but there's much more. An a-la-Hawks representation of male friendship, a social message, a nostalgic review of classic Western and two little twists in the story that avoid a possible predictable ending. Very interesting it's the Mateo Gil's choice, in opposition to the Roy Hill movie, to show Bolivia as a wide open country. While Roy Hill, in the 1969 movie, shoot the South American scenes in a cloistered vision -to give them a claustrophobic value that works as allegory of the characters mood- in contrast with the North American scenes, Gil hasn't renegade to shoot the desert, the wide plains and even the canyons from Bolivia brought out by the brilliant cinematography of Ruíz Anchía. Perhaps there're a couple of moments that the narrative pace goes down in contemplative scenes, but overall the rhythm and the story will keep your attention. Great works of Sam Shephard, Eduardo Noriega, Stephen Rea and Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau. You would like Blackthorn if you like Unforgiven, Appaloosa, Open Range or, of course, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid but not if your taste it's nearest to The Quick and the Dead, Young Guns I or II, or Cowboys & Aliens.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
To sum the movie up in short: Great acting, great camera-work, great
story, and last but not least: great nature.
I've personally never been interested in western movies, but thought I would give this one a go for some reason. Man I was taken aback by this movie. By far the best movie I've seen so far this year.
The director really manages to establish compassion with Cassidy (or James Blackthorn), but if Cassidy's legend deserves it I guess is another question.
Through the movie, there is subtle hints about the plot, things I didn't really understand until the end. With some small twists, this movie is in my eyes at least a "must see", if you care for movies with a bit of depth.
An aging Butch Cassidy (Sam Shepard), now calling himself Blackthorn
and living a quiet life in 1920s Bolivia, learns that Etta Place has
died in San Francisco, living her young son behind, to whom Butch has
long been writing in the guise of "Uncle Butch." He decides to travel
back to the States to see his "nephew," and sets off with the blessings
of his indigenous girlfriend Yana (Magaly Solier). Early on, however,
he comes across Eduardo (Eduardo Noriega), a young Spanish man on the
run from a posse after he stole a lot of money from an evil mine-owner.
Eduardo's horse is dead and he is lost, and he begs Blackthorn to help
him; somewhat against his will, Blackthorn does so, and they set off on
a last grand adventure, together. But Eduardo isn't all that he seems,
and in addition to the posse, an old broken-down Pinkerton man,
Mackinley (Stephen Rea), is also aware that Butch Cassidy didn't die
all those years ago....
I'm not big on Westerns usually, but this is an exception. Beautifully filmed on location in Bolivia, and employing numerous indigenous actors, we are also treated to flashback scenes of a younger Butch (played as a young man by Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau, who looks very much like a younger Sam Shepard), his friend the Sundance Kid (Padraic Delaney) and their mutual love Etta Place (Dominique McElligot), which deepen and enrich the larger story. I'm not sure why this screened at FantAsia, as it's not really genre, but perhaps it's because the director, Mateo Gil (making his English-language debut here), is known for earlier Spanish thrillers that were screened in earlier years. In any event, I'm very glad that I saw this unusual Western, which I believe will get a regular release later this year.
Blackthorn is one of those films. The kind that you discover and fall
in love with. It exists and this is already a miracle.
Between The Good, The Bad, The Weird and Walter Salles is Blackthorn. The meditative beauty, poetic narration and sublime photography of Salles and something of the supercool bravura of Kim Jee Woon's masterpiece.
Everything pays off here: the unexpected flashbacks which actually work dramatically and interact with the central story, the performance of Shephard which is Oscar worthy - this sounds like a cliché but he is really wonderful in this film and deserves recognition for his brilliant work - Eduardo Noriega is also back to being the resolutely appealing actor able to make you feel for him even when his character is unsympathetic, which he proved in the classic Abre Los Ojos.
Blackthorn is a sad film which tells the story of an aging outlaw's attempt to make up for the things he regrets as he's nears the end of his life. It is exciting, beautiful, sensitive and true. See it if you can and be glad you did.
This Spanish picture is an enjoyable drama Western with an interesting
characterizing about the celebrated leader of the ¨Wild Bunch gang¨ of
train robbers , Butch Cassidy who along with Sundance Kid were one of
the last old-style bandits of the West and they had the quick wit and
strength of character to dominate more desperate men . In Bolivia,
Butch Cassidy who left long time ago his criminal activity and now
calling himself James Blackthorne (Sam Shepard) , pines for one last
sight of home , an adventure that aligns him with a young robber
(Eduardo Noriega) and makes the duo a target for gangs and lawmen alike
. It's narrated by means of a relentless pursuit by a posse which leads
to the two protagonists through wonderful Bolivian landscapes .
Furthermore , it deals with young Butch Cassidy (Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau
as James joven) , Sundance Kid (Padraic Delaney) and Etta Place
(Dominique McElligott) , whose scenes are developed in flashbacks ,
both of them when the Pinkerton and railroad agents (Stephen Rea) hot
on their trail , the Wild Bunch broke up and both sailed to South
America after the turn of century and disappeared there , possibly
dying in a shoot-out in 1909 near La Paz , though the story here
narrated is quite different .
The film contains human drama , thrills , violence , riding pursuits and action Western complemented with moving tension and intrigue , including some twists and turns . These elements provide the setting for this piece of dramatic Western , giving it its own special quality and ambient . Butch is described as a tired veteran though a crack shot, he never murdered anybody and disliked gratuitous violence , he only wishes returning to US and know his son . Top-notch acting by Sam Shepard as the old bandit who becomes drawn into a spiraling tangle of danger , deceit and confusion . Acceptable interpretation by Eduardo Noriega as a young mine engineer who holds a dark secret . Colorful and evocative cinematography by Juan Ruiz Anchia who has been making a prestigious career in Hollywood , such as Close range , House of game and River runs black , here he shows splendidly the wonderful outdoors filmed on location in La Paz , Potosí , Uyuni, Bolivia . Sensitive as well as thrilling musical score by Lucio Godoy .
This exciting motion picture was well directed by Mateo Gil . Mateo is a notorious screenwriter , he wrote various films for Amenabar as ¨Agora¨ , ¨Mar Adentro¨ , ¨Abre Los Ojos¨ and ¨Tesis¨ . He only has directed ¨Nobody knows anybody¨ or ¨Nadie Conoce Nadie¨ and recently this Western titled ¨Blackthorn¨ . Rating : Above average movie for its intrigue , memorable performance , plot twits , atmospheric mood piece and impressive photography . Well worth watching .
Reviews Of Unusual Size
Re: Butch Cassidy never died. He hid out in Bolivia and bred horses. Found himself a little lady and a cabin. Then he decided to head north and visit his Niece. His horse runs off with his money and he ends up with a troublesome varmint that has $50,000 Sterling he's stolen from a group of miners. Cassidy, going by the name Blackthorn decides to help the man.
Outstanding: Filmed beautifully and directed with a solid hand that really shows the vivid beauty of the locations. Sam Shepard is a great actor and looks so excellent in this. He also has surprisingly pitch perfect comedic chops.
Unacceptable: The story is pretty far-fetched and Blackthorn gets hornswaggled too easily, even for an old feller.
Summary: I'm a total sucker for westerns and this is a good one. A classic "Old Cowboy Takes One Last Ride" movie. Strong script and great acting. I recommend it highly. A note - The screener copy I watched did not have subtitles for the Spanish language portions of the film, which is probably around 1/3 of the dialogue. I assume the final release has them, but it did make certain scenes hard to follow.
Blackthorn is directed by Mateo Gil and written by Miguel Barros. It
stars Sam Shepard, Eduardo Noriega, Stephen Rea, Magaly Solier, Nikolaj
Costsr-Waldau, Padraic Delaney and Dominique McElligott. Music is by
Lucio Godoy and cinematography by Juan Ruiz Anchia.
It was believed that Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid both perished at the hands of the Bolivian army in 1908. Not so, for here is Butch Cassidy 20 years after the supposed event, alive and well and living in a secluded Bolivian village under the name James Blackthorn
What a lovely idea, that of one of history's most famous outlaws actually living longer than history led us to believe. OK, it's a scratchy premise but it allows for a quite elegiac film as we follow an older and grizzled Cassidy on another adventure. That adventure sees him team up with mischievous Spaniard Eduardo Apodaca, the latter of which tries to rob Blackthorn/Cassidy and then offers to repay the old outlaw with the proceeds from some hidden loot stashed away from a robbery. They set off and sure enough there is a posse on their tail, meaning the pair have to stay one step ahead of their pursuers, something which puts the twinkle back in Cassidy's eyes. But not all is as it seems and with flash backs showing Butch and Sundance in their prime (Waldau as the young Cassidy is an inspired choice as per likeness to Shepard), aided by the feisty Etta Place, this is a fully rounded tale.
The film quite simply is unhurried and respectful to the art of story telling and is rich with a lead characterisation of considerable substance (Shepard is wonderful, really gets to the soul of the character). Oh it is punctured by the odd action scene, even some humour is in the mix, there's even time for machismo and romantic threads of worth, but this beats a melancholy heart and is All the better for it. It also happens to be one of the most gorgeously photographed Westerns of the modern era. Filmed primarily on location in Bolivia, the landscapes be it the mountainous ranges or pin sharp salt flats are sublime, God's wonderful Earth in all its glory expertly realised by Anchia, marking this out as an absolute Blu-ray essential for Western fans big into location photography. While Godoy's musical score is pitch perfect for the tonal flows in the narrative.
There's the odd cliché, Rea is a touch wasted and some may decry the simplicity of plot, but this is thoughtful and awash with the love of the Western genre. If only for Shepard and the photography then this is worth it for Western fans, as it is it also calls out to those who like some emotional reflection in their Oaters. 8/10
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